Levin (Gary Malebra / AP)
Even as Republicans in Congress continue their endless effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, today the law’s marketplaces open for business, helping to address a problem that has stressed families and hindered our economy for decades: the cost of health care and the difficulty finding adequate insurance coverage.
A one-stop-shop awaits individuals and families purchasing insurance on their own, where Michiganians will have an average of 43 plans, through private insurers, to choose from.
Instead of a cumbersome application process, the likes of which families have faced for years, signing up in the new marketplaces will be straightforward, with insurers now required to provide a clear, simple, and standardized summary of benefits and costs to those shopping for coverage.
Gone are the days when insurers were able to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions. Individuals and families, including those who get insurance through their employers, can now rest assured that an insurer won’t drop them. Parents of children with asthma or diabetes can rest assured that they’ll be able to get the care they need. Cancer survivors won’t face the uncertainty that their insurer might exclude them from needed services.
The vast majority of people buying insurance within the marketplace will be eligible for a tax credit to help offset much of the cost. A 27-year-old from Michigan making $25,000 a year, for instance, could get a tax credit as high as $375, bringing insurance premiums to about $100 per month, depending on coverage. In fact, most individuals in Michigan who have been without insurance will be able to find coverage in the marketplace for less than $100 a month.
Unlike the past, insurers must now maintain a certain level of benefits and cap the amount that individuals or families pay in out-of-pocket costs so that a medical event such as a heart-attack, pregnancy, or even a broken leg doesn’t bankrupt them.
And let’s not forget the benefits that have long been in effect: seniors with prescription drug coverage have saved more than $6 billion cumulatively through the new law’s provision that will eventually close the so-called “donut hole.” More than 100 million Americans, including both seniors in Medicare and Americans under age 65 in private plans, have received one or more free preventive services, such as check-ups and cancer screenings. And more than six million young adults up to age 26 have health insurance through their parents’ plan, of whom nearly half would be otherwise uninsured.
For too long, Americans buying insurance on their own have faced a task so daunting that they have resisted following their dreams to start their own company for fear that staying in their job is the only way to guarantee they remain insured. Today, we begin a new era, with Americans enabled to be ensured and in charge of their own health care.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, represents Michigan’s 12th District.